As Germany’s U18 team wrapped up its 6-0 and 9-2 thrashing of Japan in two test games before heading to Sochi, coach Jim Setters was making his final decisions on who to bring to Russia. The decisions have come easier this year as Germany will be sporting a team that is expected to do a bit more than in years past, although it has finished sixth in the two most recent U18 tournaments.
As the team was on its way to Russia, Hockey’s Future had an opportunity to quickly get some thoughts from Coach Setters.
Hockey’s Future: Both Leon Draisaitl and Dominik Kahun are finished with their junior seasons in North America. Are you expecting either or both to be with Team Germany in Sochi next week?
Jim Setters: Leon reported to our pre-world championship training camp on Saturday the 6th of April along with all the other invited players. Dominik was still playing in the OHL playoffs in Canada at the time.
HF: You’re probably just about finished with your final team decisions in the course of this week. Is it safe to say that a majority of the players are coming from the DNL and more importantly, the Mannheim-Heilbronn and Bad Tolz programs, which met in the DNL finals?
JS: Just about all of our players will be from the DNL. Some of the players have played some games in the German 2nd Bundesliga or Oberliga (3rd Division ), but Mannheim and Bad Tolz are pretty much hosting the largest portion of participants on this team.
HF: What kind of role is expected of defenseman Tim Bender, should he be healthy and with the team?
JS: He is healthy and is returning from the U18 WJC from last year. He should be one of the leaders on this team.
HF: Will DNL top-scorer Parker Tuomie be on the squad, as expected, and what role will you look to assign him in what would be his biggest international event to date? Do you feel he’ll open as many eyes for people not familiar with the German ice hockey scene as Leon Draisaitl did last year in the Czech Republic?
JS: Parker will be on the team. Parker is not quite as effective in the International game, but is an important player and creates a good atmosphere within the team. He is a totally different player than Leon. Parker’s greatest asset is his hard work and this rubs off on the rest of the team.
HF: Is there a clear-cut number one goalie going into the tournament or is the team heading to Sochi with a bit of a win-by-committee situation?
JS: No, we have three very good goalies.
HF: Germany will face group and tournament favorites Sweden and Canada in its first two games and then Slovakia and archrival Switzerland to wrap up the preliminary round play. As a coach, do you see this as a favorable situation for the team in battling for a playoff spot, both from a sporting and psychological standpoint?
JS: We don’t look at the situation as such. We will prepare as well as we can for every game. We know we must win against the Slovaks and Swiss. Of course it would be nice to beat Canada and Sweden, but we would still have to win against the Slovaks and Swiss to get into the playoffs.
HF: Team Germany has played several solid U18 tournaments in a row. Fortunately, the U20 team also managed to remain seeded in the top group at that level, paving the way for the next wave of talent to strut its stuff in Malmo next December. Does that kind of thing have any effect on the work you do and the goals you set with these young men?
JS: Every year the team is different. We set our goals based on the actual team at hand, and this changes from year to year. Our coaches start with the U16 team and over the 3 years up to the U18 WJC, we work on different goals and work step-for-step towards the U18 tournament. Our short term goals are for the tournaments, but we never forget our long term goal for the Under-18 WJC. If you don’t have a good base, you will fail. “The will to win is good, but the will to prepare is the most important”.
HF: Despite recent strong showings, Team Germany is, much like Latvia in Group A, generally viewed by pundits and opponents as being the ‘must-beat’ team in Group B. Are folks in for a real surprise from this spring’s German entry?
JS: I don’t think we are a surprise anymore. The other countries know that we are doing a good job and the technical skills of our players, over the last years, have improved immensely. German teams have always worked hard and now we have more skill to go with the work ethic.
HF: Are there any players on your team who you’d like to name as guys you think even the NHL scouts should or will have in their notebooks by the time the tournament is over?
JS: We have a number of players that are on the lists of the scouts. It’s up to the players themselves to bring their game to the WJC. If our team plays well, then those players will likely stand out.